Archive for September, 2009

Hari Raya Cook Out!

Organised a cookout with the special people over the Hari Raya long weekend. Managed to get the house in habitable living conditions with help from the girl the night before and on Monday afternoon it was grocery shopping with the strange couple Darrell & Denise, as well as Hanyang and Shaw Ming!

We also celebrated Joseph’s birthday and a good time was had by all; didn’t have time to take photos of everything and most of the awesome ones in the evening were taken by Darrell. Missing here is the baked salmon on lemon and garlic (seasoned with shoyu or olive oil), the garlic butter on toasted focaccia and the potatoes au gratin!

Thank you everyone for blessing me by coming. I hope you had as much fun as I did!

IMG_0577Darrell slicing onions for the French onion soup while Denise chops up some focaccia

IMG_0580Managed not to slice his finger off

IMG_0581Jieyun peeling the onions

IMG_0582Yuyan taking over onion slicing duties

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HY peeling potatoes and Shaw Ming mincing garlic

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D&D preparing pasta

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Mabel arriving with donuts

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Sliced potatoes for the au gratin dish

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Shaw Ming butchering the poor garlic

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Yosh & Cheryl with the best seats in the house

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Denise’s awesome pasta

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Sautéed portobello & fresh button mushrooms with onions

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D&D, The Selby style

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Darrell grilling sausages

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Old English sausages (love this grill pan!)

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Caramelised onions (this is after 3 hours) for French onion soup

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Sausages over sautéed mushrooms & onions

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Salmon sashimi & avocado salad

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Yuyan & Yosh

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Yukie with tangible thought bubble

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Joseph

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Sisters

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Yukie on my mom’s trampoline

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The big kid joins in

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Surpriiiiise

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HY & Shaw Ming use the force on Joseph

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He thought the cake was for someone else

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He was indeed surprised

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Making a wish

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For the memories

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Cutting cake time!

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Life-changing cake from Awfully Chocolate

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Cheryl impersonating Joni Mitchell

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Just love the composition of this shot

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Strange people in my room

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But lovely for helping out with all the cleaning up after!

The Future Pasts

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I found this poster lying in one of my boxes when I was spending eight hours cleaning out my room for the cookout last Monday. To be completely honest, I actually nicked it off the back of a washroom cubicle door in the Acer Arena during last year’s Hillsong Conference.

It’s  a bit beat up, having lived in my haversack and travelled across the oceans from Sydney to Singapore. Creased and nicked in some places. Rebelled against the blu-tack because it was rolled up for so long. But there’s something I love about it; maybe it’s because it has a certain history about it. Maybe because it wasn’t bought in a store and was obtained through a bit of reckless daring, and thus more appealing. Maybe it’s because I love old things — even though I loathe hype and ‘vintage’ being all the rage still — because of the dozens of little stories contained in them. My eyes light up when I spot a used CD/DVD shop… maybe someone cried to that Tori Amos record, or kissed someone they loved when they were playing the Smiths, or watched the Texas sunset from their car windows to Explosions in the Sky.

I can’t help but wonder if they ever imagined the future when these old things were new to them… what would they have thought or felt when they could see then, whatever is happening around us in the world now? Would they be amazed or baffled at the world we live in today? What will my sons or daughters think when they look at a first-generation iPhone or a Moleskine journal? What kind of world would I have left them, twenty or thirty years on?

It’s a funny time to be this introspective, especially when this season of my life is seeing exponential increase in ministry. I’ve come to realise that all of is beyond me — that it is all so completely beyond my own abilities that only God can make it work. The truth is that I am really only a vessel. A vessel that carries His spirit and walks in His will and desires to see the destiny placed in me be fulfilled in the measure of fullness that only God can encompass.

Wisdom and favour. Romans 8:28. Stretching. Being a ready vessel. These are the hallmarks of this season. And He is always faithful.

Decrease For Increase

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I was telling a brother last night that it is that moment when we realise that in and of ourselves we are wholly unable that God steps in. It becomes all God and none of self. Decreasing so that He can increase. So that everything that has put into our hands — however small and seemingly insignificant — will bear fruit. Anything and everything apart from Jesus will wither away and be burnt.

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:4-5

Little did that brother know that those words I spoke to him became food for myself. I above all others need to hear it. So many things have been placed in my hands in these past couple of months that it has become increasingly clear to me that I… cannot. I am unable. I have no ability or skill or good success apart from Him.

But I am strengthened in the grace of God, filled with a peace and joy that surpasses understanding, blessed with wisdom and favour, and walk in His will, all by no merit of my own; the reason for all of it is contained in the cross of Calvary.

I am witnessing the dektos year for me, and I am nothing, if anything, but grateful (it’s a two out of three, already).

Take away(E) the dross from the silver,
and(F) the smith has material for a vessel;
5take away(G) the wicked from the presence of the king,
and his(H) throne will be established in righteousness.

“Take away the dross from the silver,
and the smith has material for a vessel;
take away the wicked from the presence of the king,
and his throne will be established in righteousness.”
Proverbs 25:4-5

Be Wonderful

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I never thought I’d be able to fit in with my new CG — there was always this sense of awkwardness (maybe it’s just me), all too long stills in the conversation and all too many faces without names — ones I’d heard and forgotten too quickly. I’m used to this. At some point in the last twenty-seven years I’ve come to realise that there’ll always be this part of me that still feels a little out of place in new social situations, when it comes to making new friends or meeting new people; yet there’s a small part of me — a tiny one — that feels a little sad when I understand that some of these once-strangers will become strangers once again, and that all those wonderful worlds and experiences and imaginations contained in them will never be known to me.

Don’t you think it is such a terrible waste then, when we meet people and we dismiss them in our heads by some illusionary flaw they possess, when I believe each and every one of us has some modicum of brilliance within, a sort of light that can enchant or captivate, like stories about how they have lived and loved or about that  singular moment they felt so fiercely and so passionate that it opened a whole new world or planet or universe?

If I could, I want to sit with you with good coffee or even the diluted bandung I ordered to quell the spices burning my tongue or the teh-o ice limau I steal from my girlfriend, and I want to listen to you tell me your stories. All of them. Whether they are your triumphs or your losses or your careless dreams or your fistfights or your sad face at midnight; if I could, I want to hear about all of them, all these stories that belong to you, because that would mean you let me into your world and lead me through it.

I think something happened tonight. What exactly, I don’t know.

Maybe it was Paul, who towers over all of us like a great big bear, who sang out of tune but at that precise moment made me wish I was as brave as him. The same Paul who couldn’t help tearing when he shared about his mission trip, the things he saw and the things he felt, and how it had changed his life forever. Or maybe it was Alex who shared about his dream about playing the guitar in a previous meeting and when he picked it up at the end of today’s I realised I was looking at someone who looked so perfectly happy and so perfectly in his element that I rejoiced in my heart for him, honoured to see a prayer answered. Maybe it was speaking with Jon at supper and how his eyes came alive like fire when he spoke about joining the music ministry again. Or maybe it was hearing a beautiful voice during praise and worship from somewhere behind me and realising it was Merrini who later said her hobby was singing. Maybe it was watching Yosh speaking to a few girls and seeing how they were listening intently to her, simply glad to be in her presence.

Maybe all of that, and more.

I think one of the greatest privileges to be in a caregroup and be surrounded by your brothers and sisters is seeing how all these broken lives have come together and been united through the perfect Love of a perfect Saviour. I can see your heart written across your eyes — that deep yearning, that intense joy — and I wish, oh how I wish, that I could write down all of it; write about the glory that has been set upon your life and the greatness that your life shines because of Him.

Day of the Geek

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We geeks will have our day.

Things have been so crazily-insane busy that everything is a mix of work and ministry. So much so that I haven’t even opened up all my birthday presents (!) or even read all the awesome letters those precious people wrote for me (!!) or wrote a proper entry about it (!!!).

You know what — I’ll just go ahead and say it — I have the best girlfriend in the world.

Window Dreaming

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On the progression of existence:

Time feels like a piece of clingwrap stretched too taut and too thin. It’s ironic how work is getting less busy but ministry-related stuff is increasingly exponentially. New things keep coming in. It will take a miracle to face every task with joy, with a freshness of ideas and the knowing that each little part I play is my portion in this movement of God’s in this generation. I’m not indispensable — not by a long shot — but I am still set apart. Uncommon.

How crazy is that? Such wonderful contradictions are only possible with God.

On writing:

I miss those times when I actually had enough time to write. Not a script, or non-fiction for a book, or strewing ideas across the blank face of a Compose New Message. Time to sit, time to dream, time to play out a dozen scenarios in my head, time to listen to Explosions in the Sky, time to let that part of me emerge to write something that doesn’t need to be vetted or be constrained by a deadline or be presented over a two hour meeting or wonder about its political correctness and whether it reaches the right demographics.

All I want to do is just write. If you know what I mean.

On worship:

Oh, what glorious worship it was yesterday. There has to be some kind of special anointing on the Hillsong school of praise and worship. It’s hard to ignore how they really have been on the forefront of transforming church worship and redefining it for the twenty-first century; it’s almost as if they were hand-picked by God to do it (my personal opinion? they are). Nothing anyone else does is anything close to it, nothing as all-encompassing, nothing as accessible. And it’s not so much the sound (which is decidedly mainstream – a good mix of rock, pop and ballad-y stuff with a variety of lyrical voices depending on the songwriter; Darlene is the collective spirit of our heart’s cry and Marty the worshipful reverence; Reuben is the contemplative one; Joel the anthemic rallying shout of the new generation) but the representative nature of the music — like how it reveals a different facet of God in the different songs.

One notices the difference immediately in the auditorium. The theatrics are only a part of it — and hardly something one should care about — but they are still a part of it. It shouldn’t be restrained, much less ignored; I can’t help but smile when I think about the worship yesterday. The difference was apparent the moment wall upon wall of sound resonated within the confines of the auditorium, through ears, minds, hearts and spirits.

On church:

Another thing in my head is this: the role of the church is to LEAD. Just like how Adam was given dominion over the earth, we likewise have been given dominion over the world we now inhabit (in the world, but not of the world) by the victory won by Jesus at Calvary. He purchased for us the divine right to be kings and priests (Rev 1:6, 5:10) — and what do kings and priests do? They lead… by serving the people who are best served when we point them to Jesus, who has fulfilled the law and proclaimed liberty from their captivity to sin. Simply put: by His death and resurrection, we are no longer separated from God but instead dwell in His presence for all eternity — not as the guilty, but as SONS. Wrap your head around that!

Rather than playing catch-up, the rightful place of the church is to be a leader in and to the world — forerunners in culture and modern thought that spans all spheres of influence like entertainment, film, music and social justice, to name a few, with the overarching truth that Jesus is Lord, Saviour and Hope. No longer bound to our sinful natures but freed to fulfill the potential that God has already placed in each of us.

That is why it is my own vision that the creatives in the Church play such a crucial role in not only making the present-day church culturally relevant but also culturally incisive — transforming mindsets, prejudices, opinions, ideas — with Jesus forming the underpinnings of every message we send out, whether it is in the form of microblogging, short films, viral videos, design, print collaterals, theatre, dance or music.

Embrace the now and stop harking about the ‘glory days of yore’ (there is no such thing); God’s glory is always current. It is in the present moment. Rock music and modern pop arrangements will be the hymns of the future generation. Honestly, I don’t enjoy hymns — which I feel are sung more for nostagia’s sake than anything else — but a re-arranged hymn can be extremely contextual and, if I dare say it, hip (which is an ironic word to use since it’s a rather dated one).

The Internet is the prime and foremost sign of our times: Web 2.0, for example, flattens the playing field completely. Never in the entire expanse of human history has such potential been placed in our hands, where so many things have been made possible and explicably manifest through human impulse, work ethic and/or innovation.

The only challenge for the church is to make the furtherance of the gospel our impetus, and Jesus our foundation, as we align ourselves with modern culture and society, not assimilating but instead transforming it. That’s what kings and priests do.